Wasn’t it fun to make all of those plans for ‘great new things’ to happen in the New Year?
Creating a vision board is great, but you still have to deal with the everyday stuff. Today, the boys went back to school after sixteen days of winter break. That, and several rotating house guests and a general ‘let things go,’ attitude from yours truly have left my house and office a total mess.
When this happens, I revisit the Getting Things Done Method® from the book of the same name by David Allen. Allen’s methods can transform your life; but if you’d like the abbreviated version for this week; I recommend just Four Steps. Implement these, then dedicate a day or so of hard work to get your organization systems up and running. By the end of the week, if you’ve been diligent, you can get the everyday stuff under control and get back to those grand plans
Organize Your life in Four Steps
Step ONE: INBOX EVERYTHING
part 1: Physically put everything that needs attention or needs to be put away in an actual box, bin, or basket.
If you can touch it, and it needs your attention, put it in! It’s really that simple. This is how my inbox looks today after I corralled everything.
- You are creating one space for everything to be processed at a future time.
- Use the inbox to very temporarily hold everything that requires your time or decision.
- Buy a basket. Use a bin. Whatever. Try here and here if you’re looking for ideas
*Everyone in your home needs an Inbox.
Apply this rule to everyone living in your home.That means; your spouse and each child need an inbox, too. Often it is the papers and mail from family members that sends the kitchen table into daily chaos. Using inboxes avoids this problem.
I use self-adhesive poly envelopes from Martha Stewart’s line of Home Office Organizational products available at Staples or online HERE to keep my kids papers organized. They stick to any surface and remove cleanly. No more school papers lying EVERYWHERE. The kids put their papers here when they come home from school. In the morning before school the boys know to check their inbox for anything I’ve signed that needs to go back to school.
Part 2: Use the Reminders App on your smartphone to create lists that serve as virtual inboxes for all the intangible stuff floating around in your brain – things like –
- call Mom
- make tax appointment, and
- pick up dry cleaning.
The Reminders App comes pre-installed on all Mac iphones. The icon looks like this:
All mental tasks rattling around in your head take up memory bandwidth; of which you have a finite amount. The less mental bandwidth you have to operate with, the less productive you become.
Using inboxes and lists to capture that information free up your brain power for more energy, mental space, and creativity. Place all those mental tasks in an appropriate list on the app and check your reminders as often as you check your physical inbox.
The reminders app is very intuitive to use. It also has some cool features you might not realize; like reminding you when you depart or arrive at a specific place. This has plenty of useful applications if you’re forgetful. I set a reminder alarm to sound ‘Sherwood Forest’ every time I arrived at my house for a while just to see what it was like to be greeted by medieval trumpet fanfare, but I digress. If you need help or want to learn more about the Reminder App, try THIS article from Dummies.com. Here are some of the lists I created:
- At Home
- Home Depot
- Blog article ideas
Now when I’m at Home Depot I can just check my ongoing list – it never ends; does yours? By the way there is a default ‘Today” list that you can move the next day’s tasks to. As you click (check) them off they go away automatically into the “Completed” list. This is very satisfying.
Using an Android phone? I’ve heard good things about ‘Remember The Milk’ App, but can’t vouch for it. Find out more HERE.
STEP TWO: Process your Inbox & Reminders Lists as often as you need to feel organized.
- Making decisions about things.
- Scheduling on your calendar.
- Making phone calls.
- Putting things away.
- Looking things up on the internet.
- Talking to others about projects.
- Writing checks.
There should be nothing left in the inbox when you are done.
I try to process my inbox at least thee times per week. Notes I’ve written to myself, the daily unopened household mail, receipts, and anything that needs to be filed away goes into my inbox. The main thing is to place the inbox in a conspicuous place, then SCHEDULE and STICK TO processing on a regular basis or life will quickly become disorganized.
STEP THREE: Set up a Pending Folder
When you process items in your inbox, you will find certain things need to be put in a holding area, because you need to wait for something else to happen first.
For instance, you have a doctor’s bill, but you need to wait for the insurance to review the claim before paying this bill. Don’t leave this bill in your inbox, because you’ve already processed it. Instead, create a Pending Folder.
I use a Pendaflex projects organizer. It has ten spots for pending papers while they wait for some something else to happen. The organizer has elastic cords that keep papers from falling out. I’ve been using mine for years. Right now I have my kid’s school photos in there because I’m waiting to purchase the right frames to put them in.
The key to this step is to review your pending folder once a week to follow-up on these items, or if they have resolved; remove them from the folder and trash them or file them; which brings me to the final step.
STEP FOUR: Set up a ‘TO FILE’ bin.
You need a TO FILE bin if you have to file a lot of stuff regularly. If you own a home or a business, this means you. Insurance documents, school report cards, health records, and business receipts all must be filed away regularly. Processing my inbox goes so much more quickly when I can just toss items that need to be filed into this ‘TO FILE‘ bin. I made a deal with myself to file the papers at least monthly.
I detest this task, so I just can’t bear to do it more often than that, but any less often and the pile becomes so large that it threatens my inner organizer.
Again, do what works for you. If you have no problem filing away papers quickly as you process your inbox, then you don’t need a TO FILE bin.
Using these Four Steps is a simple way to implement an organizational system into your home. If you want to learn more about David Allen’s Getting Things Done Method®, I suggest you:
- read the book, or
- listen to this awesome podcast by Beyond The To-Do List, or
- watch this TEDx talk video about the art of Stress-free productivity given by Allen himself.
I know you’ve got lots of gifts to give the world; Big Girl. Use these Four Steps to free yourself from the day-to-day so you can get going on those dreams.
top image credit bhg.com